RC’s visit, beacon placing, disturb Loliondo villagers

17Jan 2022
The Guardian
RC’s visit, beacon placing, disturb Loliondo villagers

AFTER Arusha Regional Commissioner, John Mongella visited the Loliondo Game Controlled Area last week to inspect newly erected beacons around Loliondo Division, villagers are raising the alarm.

Arusha Regional Commissioner, John Mongella

Ololoosokwan ward councillor, Yohana Moloimet said at the weekend that villagers linked the RC’s visit with an impending final decision from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on final plans for 1,500 square kilometers of land that the pastoralist community uses, but it belongs to the game controlled zone, a conservation area.

The RC did not address residents on the issue, but the visit was seen as a follow up to the work of a special team sent by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa in 2016 to examine the situation as conflicts come up with a hunting firm operating in the area, they said.

The status quo being maintained at present dates to 2013 when then Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda went to Loliondo, visited all the villages and directed that plans to annex 1500 square kilometers of land should be halted.

Loliondo Division is home to over 70,000 residents, holding an estimated 784,000 head of livestock reportedly within 116 square kilometers of land, local officials say, noting that this situation touches off regular conflicts in scrambling for land and water sources.

Kijoro Kakea, a special seats councilor for women in the district, stated that children are harassed when grazing cattle in the 1500 square kilometers annex and sometimes cattle are confiscated.

Local officials want the government to reaffirm the position reached by the former prime minister in 2013, scrapping off plans to add the 1500 square kilometers within the Loliondo Game Controlled Area for strict conservation purposes.

The premier halted the exercise and directed that the mixed use of the land continue, to stem recurring conflicts, while reaffirming that the 1500 kilometers sq. kms of land is meant for conservation.

“This is a good idea but on the other hand, we have come to conclusion that the Maasai pastoralists are good conservationists themselves, and can thus still take good care of Loliondo,” he remarked at a public meeting.

PMO later asked all parties to come up with land-use plans for sustainable environmental preservation, wildlife protection and protecting vital water sources pumping water downstream to the Serengeti National Park and beyond. That issue is still being worked upon, officials affirmed.

At least 70,000 people, mostly nomadic pastoralists, live in Loliondo and Sale divisions of Ngorongoro District, moving into the area in 1959 after being evicted from Serengeti as it became a national park.

The 4000 square kilometers Loliondo Game Controlled Area formed at that time became a multi-purpose area hosting game hunting ventures, conservation and pastoralism, housing Ngorongoro District offices and residences.

The issue of slicing off 1500 square kilometers from Loliondo division to seal it off for conservation purposes met with opposition from the community, pointing out that the earmarked land consists of grazing areas, water sources and village plots.

Loliondo is part of the wider Serengeti ecosystem comprising the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maswa Game Reserve, the Serengeti National Park and Maasai-Mara Game Reserve across the border, one of Africa’s largest wildlife areas.

Residents from 14 villages located within eight wards of Loliondo Division, in Ngorongoro District, have just signed petition to oppose new plans targeting to take the land from them, arguing that for the last 30 years the area remained under its pristine condition because the Maasai communities know how to take care of the environment.

“We have heard of underground plans to annex the 1500 square kilometers of land in the Game Controlled Area which means soon a number of villages will be asked to move away from the area, thus dislocating thousands of residents, we are not about to accept this,” stated elders of the 14 local villages of Loliondo.

They were speaking in an open air meeting held at Olorien village, with the local community leaders signing the petition against planned annexation of land.

Arash village chairman Mathew Siloma said the area in question lies between the villages and the Serengeti National Park, with Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), a hunting firm from the United Arab Emirates, holding a hunting bloc licence to conduct wildlife trekking in the area.